Cloak & Dagger, based on the Marvel comic book series of the same name, was adapted by Freeform into something more accessible for a younger audience. The violence, drugs, and inner turmoils that come with a city on edge are still present, but now we see them through the eyes of teenagers instead of the adults in the comics. Instead of a typical Northern city backdrop like Chicago or New York, we are in the heart of Louisiana. The two central characters are Tandy Bowen/Dagger (Olivia Holt) and Tyrone Johnson/Cloak (Aubrey Johnson). What is likable about the show versus the comic is the role reversal regarding the circumstances and living environments of the central characters. Yes, the black kid does start off in a stereotypical, rough neighborhood with violence and crime, but he quickly rises above it. The white girl, on the other hand, starts off in a rich area doing ballet and eventually becomes a runaway and a criminal.
The effects in the show are something to appreciate, and the way the powers are handled serve the progression of the plot. They are more organic compared to the effects in shows like Black Lightning or Runaways. Tandy and Tyrone are connected to each other due to the way they received their powers, but just because their powers are connected does not mean they are eager to team up. Now before we get into the details of their powers, let’s take a second to highlight the pacing of the show. It’s slow. Not slow enough to make you drop the show and complain on Twitter, but slow in a satisfying, natural way. The characters actually get to interact and be teenagers. We learn their dreams and fears, which seem to sentiments that are often overlooked in much of today’s television. The first two episodes are the strongest out of the entire season, hitting high emotional chords that prove harder to find in later episodes. An unconventional method of storytelling that hinges on the powers the central characters begins in episode three and proceeds from there. Tandy possesses the power of light and the ability to see a person’s hopes and dreams. Tyrone possesses the ability of darkness and can harness a person’s darkest fears and doubts. Often times the plot of the story grows from the characters touching someone or each other in order to find out what can help or harm them in their current situation.
I love characters discovering themselves and their powers and the pacing compliments this notion quite well. When the action finally occurs it feels rewarding because of the patience it demands from the viewer. Unfortunately, there are only 10 episodes, all running shorter than the usual Netflix Marvel shows. If you marathon the series you can expect to finish within a day. The short time actually does not sit right with me. The show introduces interesting elements that would succeed if only they had three or four more episodes to work with. Instead, we get a slew of horrible, threatening monsters that are brushed away within three simple episodes. This makes the latter half of the series seem quite rushed. The show starts off slow and steady, but then things ramp up and sprint toward a fast ending. Honestly, I had to revisit the final two episodes just to understand what actually happened. Another thing that did not connect with me was the exposition and voodoo side story. At first, I thought it would go somewhere grand, but it was just an excuse for the show to hammer the importance of the central characters even harder. I do not need to be reminded that the stars of the show are in fact the stars of the show, but I appreciate tying Louisiana culture and tradition into the storyline.
Cloak & Dagger may not impress hardcore superhero fans, but the social commentary on police violence, abusive homes, and drug addiction hits hard. Luke Cage might falter, but shows like Cloak & Dagger, and Black Lightning deliver. If are you looking for a show that is different than anything else Freeform has to offer, then Cloak & Dagger is for you.
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